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In his Son, Jesus Good Shepherd, the Father has opened in the Church, through Blessed James Alberione, a new path of holiness. The holiness of God, which is nothing else but his goodness and his beauty, has been made visible in Christ the Good Shepherd: kalōs, the Beautiful Shepherd.

Good Shepherd, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna


For every Christian, the path to holiness begins with Baptism. We are all called to live in holiness, faith, hope and charity.

For us Pastorelle Sisters, it’s not only a vocation to personal holiness. We are called to take care of the holiness of the people of God in the ministry of pastoral care. Ours is a vocation to be mothers and sisters in the Spirit at the service of the holiness of the Church by our configuration to Christ the Shepherd, in order to reawaken the taste for God in our fellow human beings today.

In our prayer let us ask for the gift of pastoral holiness:

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Let us be challenged by those who have been witnesses of holiness as lived out in the ministry of pastoral care.


The Fathers of the Church

St. Ambrose of Milan

Pastor and Father of the Church

He is remembered on 7 December 


Ambrose, a member of two important Senatorial Roman families that had become Christian, the Aurelii family on the mother’s side, and the Simmaci Family on the father’s side, was born at Trier about the year 339 where his father was prefect of the Gauls. Destined for a civil career, he attended the best schools in Rome and received a solid rhetorical and judicial education.


After five years as a magistrate at Sirmio, around 370 he was sent to govern the provinces of Emilia and Liguria and eventually arrived in Milan as Governor of Northern Italy where he became an influential figure in the court of the Emperor Valentinian I. His ability to pacify those of opposite factions [orthodox Christians and Arians] won him the respect of the people.


Fifty years had passed from the time of Constantine’s decree and the Church was growing strong and well organised, but at the same time it was facing its first Christological heresies between the Arians and the Orthodox.


In 374, following the death of the Arian bishop, Auxentius, Ambrose was acclaimed by the people as bishop of Milan despite the fact that he was a simple catechumen. At first he refused given that he wasn’t even baptised and lacked preparation. But he later accepted and under the Emperor Flavius Valentianian was baptised and ordained a bishop.


Highly prepared culturally, but deficient in knowledge of Scriptures, the new bishop began to study them energetically. In this way Ambrose brought to the Latin environment the practice of meditating on Scriptures initiated by Origen, beginning the practice of ‘lectio divina” in the West. The method of “lectio” soon guided the preaching and writing of Ambrose, which emerged precisely from the prayerful listening to the word of God.


Giving himself to a life of prayer and asceticism, Ambrose gave away his goods to the poor and all his properties except for making provisions for the support of his young sister, Marcellina, who was to consecrate herself to Christ in the Order of consecrated virgins. To Marcellina, Ambrose dedicated his treaties on Christian virginity.

He was man of great charity, his door was always open to others and he was tireless in his care of the people entrusted to him.


His wisdom and fame were determining factors in the conversion of Augustine. In 386 Augustine had come to Milan as a professor of rhetoric, in search of the truth. Seeking he wasn’t able to find since he did not know that it was God who was in search of him. The beautiful homilies of Ambrose certainly made an impact on Augustine but it was above all the testimony of his life and the life of the Church of Milan, a Church deeply united with its bishop that converted him. Augustine was baptised by Ambrose on the Easter night of 387.


Under the leadership of Ambrose, the Church was capable of resisting the bullying of the emperor and his mother, who had demanded again the expropriation of a Church building for Arian ceremonies in early 386. In the building that was to be expropriated, Augustine wrote, “the devout people of Milan stayed put, ready to die with their own bishop.” [1]


Subsequently, Ambrose ordered the building of four basilicas, at the four corners of the city as if to form a protective square and in the shape of a cross. These correspond to the existing Basilica of St. Nazaro, built on the road that connected Milan to Rome; the Basilica of St Sempliciano; The Basilica of the Martyrum which Ambrose made home to the bodies of Saints Gervasius and Protasius and the Basilica in which he himself was buried and came to be known as the Basilica of St. Ambrose; and the fourth, the Basilica of St. Dyonisius.


As the bishop of Milan, Ambrose exercised considerable influence on the social and political life of the Empire. And because the Emperor, starting with Constantine, held a certain authority within the church, Ambrose took his distance in order to preserve his ecclesiastical prerogatives and to be the one to care for the Christian life of Emperor Theodosius.  In fact, in the year 390 he reprimanded him severely after he had ordered a massacre among the population of Thessalonica, guilty of having lynched the head of the Roman garrison of the city. In the course of three hours of massacre thousands of people had been killed. As punishment, Ambrose imposed a “public penance” on Theodosius; he was excluded from participation in the liturgy. Theodosius accepted the penance imposed on him and it was only in the Christmas of the following year that he was readmitted to the sacraments.


Ambrose wrote works on ethics and theology. He guarded the rights of the Church, and in his writings and his work he defended the true faith against the Arians and paganism. He very quickly developed an extraordinary sensus fidei which markedly influenced the culture on his time. He wrote many hymns for prayer and made fundamental reforms to the liturgy and sacred songs, introducing features taken from the Eastern liturgies. His successors kept his liturgy in the diocese of Milan recognised as the Ambrosian Rite and which is still used today.


He worked hard to regenerate the spirituality and theological preparation of the clergy and to propose strong testimonial experiences for Christians. He promoted and supported the state of consecrated virginity, renewing the eschatological dimension which was weakening after the era of the martyrs had eased. He spoke severely against usury and the selfish use of the goods of the earth,

and through his evangelical parresia [2] he fought against emperors and the powerful people of his time who had succumbed to moral and doctrinal errors. However, he did this without ever failing to proclaim the mercy of God towards all who have erred.


In his treaty on Penance, it is lovely to sense his solidarity with those who have sinned: “Preserve, O Lord, Your work, guard the gift which you have given even to him who shrank from it. Let not him whom when lost you called to the priesthood, to be lost when a bishop. And first grant that I may know how with inmost affection to mourn with those who sin; Grant that so often as the sin of any one who has fallen is made known to me I may suffer with him, and not chide him proudly, but mourn and weep, so that weeping over another I may mourn for myself ”. [3]


He was a faithful shepherd to Christ and to his flock whom he guided with courage and wisdom to maturity in faith and fidelity to the Gospel. He gave his whole life to pastoral ministry and died when he was not even 60.


The saintly Bishop Ambrose died during the night in Milan between April 3-4, 397. It was the dawn of Holy Saturday. The day before, toward 5 p.m., he began to pray as he was lying in bed with his arms open in the form of the cross. That is how he participated in the solemn Easter Triduum, in the death and resurrection of Our Lord. "We saw him moving his lips," testified Paulinus, the faithful deacon who was invited by Augustine to write Ambrose's biography entitled "Vita," "but his voice could not be heard."


Suddenly, the situation seemed to come to an end. Honoratus, bishop of Vercelli, who helped Ambrose and who slept upstairs from him, was awakened by a voice that repeated: "Get up, quick! Ambrose is approaching death." Honoratus immediately went downstairs, Paulinus recounted, "and offered the saint the Body of the Lord. After having taken it, Ambrose surrendered his spirit, carrying with him viaticum. Thus, his soul, strengthened by virtue of that food, now enjoys the company of angels" ("Vita," 47).

On that Good Friday of 397, the open arms of the dying Ambrose expressed his mystical participation in the death and resurrection of Our Lord. This was his last catechesis: Without speaking a word, he spoke with the testimony of life.” [4]


The legacy of St Ambrose has emerged primarily from his pastoral duties:  the preaching of the Word of God linked to theology, the attention given to problems regarding social justice, the welcoming of people from distant lands, denouncing errors in public and political life. A tradition hat has been long guarded by the whole Church and especially the Ambrosian Church. The homilies and declarations of its bishop, even today, especially on the feast of St Ambrose, are held in great esteem by the general public.


“Like John the Apostle, Bishop Ambrose, who never tired of repeating "Omnia Christus est nobis!" -- Christ is everything for us! -- remained an authentic witness for the Lord. With these same words, full of love for Jesus, we will conclude our catechesis: "Omnia Christus est nobis! If you want to heal a wound, he is the physician; is you burn with fever, he is the fountain; if you are oppressed by iniquity, he is justice; if you need help, he is strength; if you fear death, he is life; if you desire heaven, he is the way; if you are in darkness, he is the light. ... Taste and see how good the Lord is. Blessed is the man who hopes in him!" ("De virginitate,"16, 99)” [5]


Ambrose of Milan, holy bishop and father of the Church, remains a point of reference for anyone who is called to the care of life in Christ and to the proclamation of the Gospel to all who search for truth and justice but may not find them since they do not know that the longing in their hearts is a God given longing. We can also look to him to discover anew the breath of a Church that breathes through both its Eastern and [Christian] Western lungs, a Church that John Paul II so much longed for and promoted throughout his entire Pontificate.


(Edited by) Sr. Giuseppina Alberghina sjbp



[1] Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, 9,7.

[2] Parresia- freedom to say everything. In New Testament used to mean courage & sincerity of the witness. Opposite to hypocrisy.

[3] St Ambrose, On Penance, 2, 73.78.

[4] Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 24 October 2007.

[5] Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 24 October 2007.



Witnesses of pastoral holiness

Sr. Cecilia Domenica Sciarrone:

the ardent heart and industrious hands

of an authentic missionary


Domenica was a beautiful 21 year old girl from Calabria when she applied to enter the Congregation of the Sisters of Jesus Good Shepherd, Pastorelle, who were only four years founded and part of the Pauline Family. In fact, on 22 September 1942, Domenica joined the small group of Sisters that was quickly gaining stability and developing rapidly.


The young lady arrives with a letter of recommendation from her parish priest, don Gaetano Cotroneo, who testified to the solidity of her religious vocation. Domenica has grown up in a well to do Christian family that distinguished itself in the township for its wealth and its assiduous regular parish life. Her father, Santo, and her mother, Eleonora Pratticò, had six children: a boy who became a magistrate and five girls, two of which became Religious, our Sister Cecilia and her sister Caterina who became a Salesian Sister.


Domenica was born at Campo Calabro, Reggio Calabria, on 23 November 1920 and was baptised on 8 December, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, in the parish Church dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene.


The years in which Domenica joined were the stormy years of World War II and the small flock of Pastorelle Sisters was doing its best to confront all the difficulties and deprivations they encountered and to help people around them.


The time of the war coincided with the time of her initial formation, and together with the other Sisters, she lived the experience of moving from one community to another in search of a safe place...


At the end of 1942 she was in Valdicastello, Lucca, and subsequently at Farra d’Alpago in the Belluno region. They were difficult times but also times of high aspirations to be disciples of the Lord with evangelical radicality.


It was only at the end of the war, when peace was being consolidated, that Domenica did her novitiate at Genzano and made her First Profession on 6 January 1948 taking the name of Cecilia after the roman martyr who shed her blood for Christ, giving joyful and courageous witness to her faith.  Sr Cecilia always sought to do honour to the martyr whose name she bore and from the beginning of her religious life she “was animated by a great spirit of faith and charity, she was generous towards everyone, keen to help, especially in the sewing room, but also anywhere she was asked to go, without letting weigh on anybody what she did”, according to the testimony of a Sister.


After her Profession she went to S. Pietro alle Acque, Umbria, the house which in those years served as the Central house of the Institute and the house for initial formation. Among the many human and spiritual qualities that Sr Cecilia possessed, she could sew, do embroider y and was very good at art and craft which she passed on to the young women with enthusiasm.


In 1951 she was entrusted with the role of Superior in the community of Polinago, a beautiful area in the Modenese Apennines where it always snows in winter. In 1953 she was called to be animator of the community of Medolla at the service of a very lively parish.

It was at Medolla, just as she was beginning her apostolate, that she received the missionary call to go to  Brazil where the Congregation was setting its first roots and many young women were asking to enter.


They needed a Sister to lend a hand in the fervour of its early growth and there was a great need to provide many things and not least a house where to welcome the young women. “As soon as she set foot on Brazilian soil, after two days of her arrival she took me on a charity round at Rio de Janeiro, in order to  provide for some of the house needs of the Terceira Légua  in Caxias do Sul,  where a number of aspirants had already entered”, testifies the same Sister as before.


Sr Cecilia was a well loved member of the formation community of Terceira Légua. Sr Cecilia was simple and spontaneous; she had a good sense of humour and was also able to accept her own limitations and to sincerely recognize her mistakes. In 1959 she became part of the Avenida san Leopoldo community, also in Caxias do Sul, this house was the Central house and formation house of the Institute.


After one of her missionary voyages by boat, she wrote to the First Master telling him how she spent her days during the long crossing, praying much and attending to children who were travelling with their families. Among other things she writes: “We praised God above the immensity of the waters. I suffered for having left behind my family and fellow-Sisters but in my heart I felt much joy and very close to Jesus as I conversed with Him before the small Ciborium; renewing at every moment the gift of myself of which you are aware…in reparation for the many sins committed”.


In 1963 she returned to Italy and stayed for over a year in the community of Saliceto Panaro where she dedicated herself to the pastoral care of families. On her return to Brazil, she went to Jabaquara, Sao Paulo, where the Congregation had a big community and its first school which was to become a very prestigious educational Institute: the Institute of the Divine Shepherdess. As always, Sr Cecilia got on well with the young and contributed through her laboriousness to the many daily necessities. She remained there until 1969 when she was appointed Superior of the community of Terceira Légua where she had begun her missionary adventure. Subsequently she was made Superior of the community of Fagundes Varela which had been opened in 1954. She remained in this community until her final return to Italy in 1971.


Part 2

In the first part we described the vocation and religious life of Sr. Cecilia Domenica Sciarrone, including her great missionary experience in Brazil, which concluded in 1971, the year in which she was asked to return to Italy.

After returning from Brazil and spending some time in Albano studying to obtain her diploma as a kindergarten teacher, Sister Cecilia was sent to be part of the community at Borgo Milano, Verona, where in 1972-73 she completed her training as a kindergarten teacher. She was very happy in the apostolate and gave herself generously wherever she saw a need.  She was most faithful in the care of her spiritual life and hardly ever neglected her prayer.

She was diligent in her preparation for the apostolate especially for the teaching of catechism which she loved doing, and she kept up her formation by participating in renewal courses. She used to also dedicate time to visiting the sick of the parish and joined UNITALSI[1] so as to be able to better fulfil her ministry of consoling and offering spiritual help to those in need.


Sister Cecilia often told jokes and was pleasant company; she had a captivating simplicity combined with a great precision in everything she did. She was a great example of someone who was available and accountable. A very sincere and affectionate Sister, she was always ready to assist in the needs of the moment, showing a strong love for the Congregation. Her deep faith and trust in the First Master and in her Superiors made her docile in obedience and zealous in the apostolate which she carried out for the Lord alone and not to be noticed. Sr Cecilia gladly spoke of and listened to things of God and nourished her relationship with the Lord so as to love him more and more.

Her health was not strong and in the summer of 1975, while visiting her family, she took the opportunity for a period of rest, enjoying her beautiful Calabrian sea. When she returned to the community in August, she began to experience the early symptoms of a disease that was not easily diagnosed. She lamented fatigue and severe headaches. Her doctor recommended a tonic treatment but it didn’t have the desired effects. With the passing of weeks her health deteriorated. She experienced brief moments of memory loss and, at times, her behaviour seemed marked by certain disorientation.


Such health problem prevented her from continuing her ministry in the parish and to leave the community of Borgo Milano. Everyone, especially the sick who were very fond of her, wished her well and a speedy recovery and a happy return. So towards the end of the year, Sister Cecilia moved to the Mother House at Albano, and was admitted to Regina Apostolorum Hospital where she underwent surgery for a cholecystotomy. Her recovery was slow and during her long convalescence, signs of deterioration and mental fatigue became evident. Consequently, after Easter in 1976, she was taken for an emergency hospitalisation to a clinic in Rome where she stayed for one day only due to the difficulty of reaching a prognosis.  And so, on April 24, she was transferred to San Camillo hospital where she remained until June 22.


 Prior to her departure for Albano for her hospitalisation in Rome, one of the Sisters comforted her reminding her of a phrase from the First Master: "The bed of a sick Sister is like an altar." At those words her face seemed to be transfigured and she replied: “How beautiful these things you are saying to me!”  This sentence well describes Sr Cecilia, her determination to be a good Religious in all things, even to the point of offering her life with that of Jesus Good Shepherd.


At the hospital she was diagnosed with a brain tumour, maybe already advanced, but nevertheless she was operated in an attempt to circumscribe the tumour; unfortunately that didn’t happen and her condition worsened considerably. The doctors recommended that she be transferred to the hospital in Albano Laziale, to be more easily assisted by the Sisters, who with great love and dedication took turns at her bedside day and night.


On the feast of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, a day of great celebration for our

Congregation, the Superior General, before leaving for Brazil, went to see Sister Cecilia and asked for the help of her prayer and the offering of her suffering. Sr Cecilia could not speak but through her facial expression and especially with her eyes, she expressed her joy and her participation in the trip through her suffering. Although she was paralysed, at the moment of praying the Our Father, she composed herself as in prayer, the prayer of the heart that the Lord welcomed in the secret of His mystery.


Her health deteriorated further and her sister, Sr Caterina who was a Salesian Sister, remained close to her in the last days of her life together with the Pastorelle Sisters who did not leave her even a single moment. On the morning of 13 July 1976, at 3.40am Sr Cecilia entrusted her earthly existence to the Father and entered eternal life.


Sr. Cecilia had a short life; she would have been 56 years the following November. However, hers was an intense life lived in faith and dedication to Jesus the Good Shepherd, in the love for her vocation of Pastorella and in the care of the people of God. Her ardent heart was purified in the crucible of a profound suffering that was hard to comprehend, but a suffering that the heavenly Father accepted in the silent offering of an act of pure love, the intensity and gratuitousness of which was known to Him alone.


Her hands now united to the hands of the crucified and glorious Christ, we can be certain, continue to be active in abundantly blessing and interceding in the presence of the blessed Holy Trinity.


Sr. Giuseppina Alberghina sjbp



[1] U.N.I.T.A.L.S.I. (UNITALSI)  – Unione Nazionale Italiana Trasporto Ammalati a Lourdes e Santuari Internazionali.  [Italian National Union of Transportation  of the Sick to Lourdes and to International Shrines]




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